Tuesday, April 26, 2016


All eyes on Venus, 2010
"The true value of a telescope is how many people can view the heavens through it"  (John Dobson)
I've been privileged over many years to have the opportunity not only to  explore and contemplate the wonders of the skies but to be able to share them with many others who might not even have thought to look up and notice the gibbous Moon as it rises above the rooftops; who would not have known that a particularly beautiful conjunction of Jupiter and Venus was reaching it's crescendo; who might have missed news reports about a partial solar eclipse occurring that day.

Through participation in public Star Parties, volunteer work in Virginia Living Museum's Abbitt  Observatory, and my own individual "sidewalk astronomy" efforts, I've learned that an interest in the Universe around us runs deep in nearly everyone.  Even people who might not have given a thought to the greater Cosmos, when confronted with a view of Saturn through the eyepiece of a telescope, seem to suddenly come alive with questions about the planets and stars, black holes and galaxies!
Observing the Transit of Mercury, 2006

And the kids!  Curious youngsters explode with excitement at the sight of Jupiter's four visible satellites, and even reticent teens open up somewhat when faced with solar prominences and sunspots, with the Moon's walled plains and crater chains.  Stargazing opens other, fresher eyes; terrestrial concerns and complications are left behind for a few moments while minds young, old and in-between reach for the stars.

In the Abbitt Observatory, 2004

Call me an astronomical evangelist, a proselytizer or perhaps just a pusher.  All I know is this; in my four-and-a-half decades of amateur astronomy I have discovered that the only thing that approaches the pleasure I take from observing the skies is the act of sharing them with others.  Maybe a lunar eclipse viewed through a dust-storm in Bahrain or a conjunction shared with newly-minted Cadets on the bridge of a tanker; bringing the dusty glow of a comet down to the residents of a "station" in Western Australia or a fine crescent Moon to twilight park visitors here in Newport News...this is what I love to do. 

If, as Dr. Dobson says, the value of a telescope can be measured in the number of souls who've gazed through it, then my several telescopes are far more valuable than even I care to estimate; my journals stand as ledgers measuring the riches of time and effort expended in bringing stars, planets, lunar and solar events, and meteor showers to members of the public.  If this be my contribution to the world, my legacy in stars shared and children fascinated, then I consider this energy and time to have been well-spent.

And, hopefully, only just begun.

Sharing Jupiter, 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment